|Cover Art by Bradley Sharp|
One hundred years ago, the vampire Victory retired from a centuries-long mercenary career. She settled in Limani, the independent city-state acting as a neutral zone between the British and Roman colonies on the New Continent.
J.L. Gribble joins us today to talk about her upcoming release, STEEL VICTORY.
Tell us about your new book!
STEEL VICTORY is an urban fantasy/alternate history. There are elements of political thriller, mother-daughter drama, and female coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of a family trying to defend its home against outside invaders. But when the family includes vampires and magic-users; their allies include elves, mercenaries, and werecreatures; and the invaders are the Roman Empire, the excitement is going to be turned up a notch.
Where did the idea for this story come from? What was the biggest influence for it?
I’ve been an avid reader of urban fantasy for a long time, but one thing about it really bothered me: I flat out don’t believe that we could live in a world where magical and mythical creatures live out of sight, unnoticed by the general human population. So I started thinking about what historical influences these communities of creatures would have, such as long-lived vampires on the senate preventing the fall of the Roman Empire, the werewolf clans of Albion uniting to drive out the Romans and form the modern British Empire, and the elves using magic to suppress technological evolution after the horrors of a world war.
But I didn’t want to write a worldwide political epic, so I focused on one tiny corner of the planet. The city of Limani, and nearby Jarimis University, were heavily influenced by my undergrad alma mater in southern Maryland, St. Mary’s College of Maryland. The location, atmosphere, and love of the campus and community that I experienced there translate into how my characters feel about their own home.
Tell us about your protagonists. Why are we going to love them?
There are two major POV characters in this book, the vampire Victory and her adopted human daughter Toria. Both women definitely have things to love about them. Fans of Victory will appreciate her willingness to try the political approach to problems first, despite (or perhaps because of) her mercenary background and long life experience. But that won’t stop her from grabbing her sword when diplomacy fails! Toria, on the other hand, has much more of the hot-headedness of youth on her side, and her fans will be drawn to her stubbornness and determination to do what she thinks is right. And her ability to get back up again when it all goes horribly wrong.
Who's your favorite character in this book and why?
While of course I adore my two leading ladies, I definitely had the most fun writing Syri, a young elf who becomes Toria’s partner-in-crime for a good portion of the book. She’s cranky, she’s cynical, and her voice flows so naturally that every scene with her was a breeze to write. I hope readers get a kick out of her as much as I do!
What attracted you to science fiction, and how do you approach blending it with other genres?
I grew up watching Star Trek (re-runs of both the original series and The Next Generation) with my grandmother, and had a standing date watching Star Trek: Voyager with my mother all through middle school and high school during the original airings. On my own, I was watching more contemporary-era shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The X-Files, and Highlander: The Series and reading sprawling sagas like Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, Catherine Asaro’s Skolian Empire, and Mercedes Lackey’s Heralds of Valdemar series. I think being really into these incredibly diverse universes that everyone around me lumped into “one” genre really informed my personal approach to speculative fiction, which is to never limit myself to the stereotypes and tropes of one particular genre or subgenre. Which leads me to the next question:
What do you want to get across in your writing, if anything?
Another thing these universes all had in common that must have spoken to me a lot is the idea that a story can focus on a small group of characters, but that their actions can have ripples across worlds. While “monster of the week”-style storytelling can be fun, I find myself really drawn to the more intricate “metaplots” that carry across from one book or episode to the next in a series or show. The phrase “Write what you love” is very important to me, and since I would totally geek out at seeing a bit character in a prequel story show up in a later novel, or vice versa, that’s the sort of thing that has really influenced my development of this series.
What are your future writing plans?
STEEL VICTORY stands alone, but it is intended to be a small episode in a much bigger universe of stories. I’d love to be able to put out a seven-book arc (don’t worry: book 2 is already drafted and book 3 is in the research/outline stage) with lots of short stories filling in the gaps and history (two of those are drafted, three more need to be revised, and another is in the outline stage). So I’m excited to be here for as long as you’ll have me!
Leave us with an exciting excerpt.
Toria stared across the river, trying to ignore the tap dancers in her skull. Everything in her urged her to go south, track the damn Romans, and rescue Kane. Yes, he still lived, but for how long?
She was at the edge of the water, waves lapping at her boots, before she realized what she was doing. “No, Toria.” She didn’t even have a water bottle, much less weaponry. Her magic was strong, but a rescue attempt would be a lot easier with a blade in her hand.
With great reluctance, she pulled herself away from the water’s edge. No, she would have to return to Limani for aid. And painkillers. At least she’d accomplished their mission. The Romans were close to the city, and she had to bring the warning.
Toria distracted herself from her head by gripping the glowing glass even tighter in her hand. The power in the bauble strained, and the light guttered like a candle, then went out. When she attempted to reactivate the spell, sharp pain lanced her between the eyes and she doubled over again.
She hoped dawn came soon. It would be a long, agonizing walk, but daylight at least meant she wouldn’t trip over everything.
Stay tuned for the second part of J.L.'s interview, coming soon. STEEL VICTORY releases June 26th and is available for pre-order.
J. L. Gribble is a professional medical editor. By night, she does freelance fiction editing in all genres, along with reading, playing video games, and occasionally even writing.
Previously, Gribble studied English at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. She received her Master’s degree in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, and Steel Victory was her thesis novel for the program. This is her debut novel.
She lives in Ellicott City, Maryland, with her husband and three vocal Siamese cats. Find her online (www.jlgribble.com), on Facebook (www.facebook.com/jlgribblewriter), and on Twitter and Instagram (@hannaedits). She is currently working on more tales set in the world of Limani.